Shut up for a minute before you dive into the fray. Before you start repeating the latest chant or the moment’s trendiest #hashtag, just stop and be quiet for a few.
My teen is taking a language arts class with a friend of mine, and this lady has been amazing about teaching the kids in the class the power of words and how to use them for good. Yesterday, she was talking about the etymology of words used in politics and the discussion, naturally, came around to the previous Saturday’s March for Our Lives in Wilmington. Thousands of people marched, and even young children – some the age of my younger daughter – spoke out for school safety and against assault rifles. The instructor went on to empower the students to speak out and to develop an ease of speaking so that, even if put on the spot, they can speak eloquently and confidently.
But there was one thing the instructor left out. She didn’t tell them to think carefully first. Friends with school students talked to their kids ahead of a previous Wednesday’s walk-out in protest of school violence. Some of them had no idea why they were walking out. They just did it because everyone else was doing it. I wonder how many of those school children have researched all the facets of this argument? How many have investigated both sides of the debate? To argue intelligently against something, one needs to know why they are against it.
What is the actual issue at hand?
Why does this need to change?
What does the other side believe? Why do they believe that?
What are possible consequences of each side “winning”?
What are possible consequences of each side “losing”?
Only after answering these questions can someone own a clear, convicted voice for their side of the discussion. It takes more than just blind following and a hashtag to embrace a belief.
I can see both sides of this issue. I have friends who have assault rifles just because they can. They’re mentally stable and won’t go into a school and kill people. Assault rifles aren’t only available at sporting goods stores. They’re available at pawn shops and the trunks of dark-colored sedans parked on shadowy streets in certain parts of cities. Sadly, whatever’s banned or restricted is always available on the black market, and banning something won’t keep people who want it from acquiring it. Ever hear of Prohibition? Or underground churches in China? Good or bad, it can be had.
With the news of each school shooting, my girls are grateful to be homeschooled. When I was in school, we had fire drills and tornado drills. There were no lock-down drills, no active shooter drills, and no metal detectors. When the news reports a situation at an area high school, my teen immediately starts mentally scrolling through her friends to see which one might be in the middle of that. When it’s not one of her best friends, she breathes easily again.
For heaven’s sake, it’s hard enough being a teenager in school without having to worry each and every day if it’s going to be your last! Freshmen are trying to navigate high school itself. Sophomores are thinking about getting their licenses. Juniors are wondering about prom and the first round of SATs or ACTs. And seniors are fretting about college and scholarships. These are all important parts of a schooled teen’s life. The last thing they need to think about is their own personal safety while they’re sitting in a desk trying to learn.
Those students for whom this fear is a living, breathing part of their everyday existence have every right to peaceably protest the ease with which people can get weapons to kill them. They have the right to feel disgusted when those who are supposed to be representing their rights and best interests instead represent entities who don’t value them as people. Many people on “the other side” are scoffing at them: “They’re just kids. What do they know?” The seniors in the crowd have studied US Civics and know how government is supposed to work. And they’ll be voting in November’s mid-term elections. These teens from Florida know that someone came into their school and killed 17 people who shouldn’t have died that day. Other teens from other schools know that such senseless violence can happen anywhere and are doing what they can to prevent it.
Before insulting the children for being “too young” or “too immature” or “too stupid” to effect change, take a moment and consider the situation through their lenses. Imagine every day having to go to school and possibly being killed by some mentally unstable person just because you’re in the right place at the wrong time. Before jumping on the “take away all the guns!” bandwagon, consider those people who use guns to hunt for food for their families and those private homeowners who own guns responsibly for their own safety and that of their families. Step into the skin of the other person and see things from their point-of-view. Then, and only then, can you argue for either side with authority and conviction.